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The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales

By Phil Butler | January 31, 2011
  • The American Dream, owning a home, whisking the kids off to school, Father Knows Best, and etc. It was a quaint, even romantic fantasy, while it lasted that is. Today Americans are walking about looking more shell shocked than starry eyed, the effects of the economic bubble hitting home. Now there is a bit of a paradigm shift in how people think about the home, that last bastion of hope of a bygone era.

    Buying a home has been the cornerstone of hope for the American family for many generations. In fact, owning one's own homestead is at the core of what America is about as a country, as a social experiment. But the dream so many once had, the hope that a secure home is possible for anyone, this idea is radically changing, and with good reason.

    father knows best
    Father Knows Best cast - a picture of the American Dream

    Some experts even suggest, home ownership is not right for everyone. I say; "Well, thank you Mr. Expert." It should be for anyone who dreams of their own home, and is willing to work for it. But again, the experts are just not very diplomatic, clearly not so many can dream of their own property now.

    While the American Dream being flushed away for new generations of homeowners, what's more disturbing is the fact that current homeowners may not be suited to ownership. You read that correctly, even those with property may not be suited (according to the "experts") to homeownership. Beside the staggering numbers of families losing their homes to foreclosure, there are an equal number "underwater" where their home's value is concerned.

    sharecropper
    Are the days of share-croppers back?

    So many showed confidence in Realtors, bankers, and other industry "experts" when they bought their American Dream, only to discover their dream is worth less, far less than "projected."

    Even the complexion of this so called American Dream has been altered by recent events. People who can afford to buy or build, have apparently reevaluated their dream. The National Association of Home Builders reports that the median size of new family homes being built has dropped from 2,268 square feet to just over 2,100. The dream is shrinking.

    gone with the wind
    The American Dream, Gone, Gone With the Wind

    A Pew Research Center study shows that upwards of 16 percent of American families have turned back the pages to the era of multi-generational home ownership. In short, a constriction and digression of thinking where our American Dream goes. But, this may not be a bad thing - maybe the dream was wrong in the first place? The graph below suggests that perhaps 50 million or more people have gone back to this more European way of viewing property.

    dream
    Back to the family, the only security there is

    It is interesting, and even a bit alarming that not many Americans seem to know how to weigh this economic collapse. Another Pew Research study offers insight into the ways in which, what they term The Great Recession, has hit Americans. So much has changed, is changing. In essence, Americans, knowingly or not, sit adrift in a lifeboat where once a great ship's deck balanced their aspirations, their very lives.

    30 months after the Great Recession began, the downsizing of expectations - shrinking aspirations about everything continues.

    The chart below shows clearly how this Great Recession has cast America back toward the Stone Age. Many fear the Company Store may not be far off, and what's worse, it may be a blessing for millions.

    luxury necessity
    Homes may be a luxury America can no longer afford

    Fully half of the U.S. labor force has experiences work related hardship - loss of their jobs, cuts in pay, hour reductions, or movement to part time, etc. The American household has lost 20 percent of its wealth, and owes the budget deficit tens of thousands just to pay back what America has borrowed. And Walmart, and Realtors, and Procter & Gamble expect business as usual?

    If the "straw boss" is ever coming back to America, it seems now is the opportune time. If you listen to the hit from 1956 by Tennessee Ernie Ford below, at least some of you may remember a time when a strong back and a weak mind was all most Americans had of the dream - those times are here again my friends. We never thought "Gone With the Wind" would apply to the future.

    Phil Butler is a former engineer, contractor, and telecommunications professional who is editor of several influential online media outlets. Phil began his digital ramblings via several of the world’s most noted tech blogs, at the advent of blogging as a form of journalistic license.
    A graduate of The College of Charleston, Phil also served in the United States Navy, and has worked for any number of Fortune 500 companies. Together with his wife and partner Mihaela Lica Butler, Phil also helped forge Pamil Visions PR into one of the most successful online PR companies in the world. His greatest accomplishments however involves being the best husband, father, and friend he can be.
    Latest posts by Phil Butler (see all)
  • One comment on “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales”

    1. Replaced in the rotation with Charlie Furbush, who I really don't imagine will do any better.

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